Delimitations for local government elections in Punjab are likely to be finalised by the end of July amid thousands of objections filed against the new boundaries of local councils.
Over 4,500 objections have been filed with delimitation officers across the province with the Faisalabad district topping the list with 415 objections.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had appointed 11 officers – mostly its regional officers or retired sessions judges – to adjudicate petitions against preliminary delimitations before these boundaries were finalised by end of this month. The commission plans to notify the results on July 30 once the petitions are disposed of. However, owing to the huge number of cases, the officers have their hands full.
According to ECP data, 4,862 objections have been filed with delimitation officers in 36 districts of Punjab.
After Faisalabad comes Rawalpindi, where 328 objections have been submitted with Sanaullah Malik, the ECP additional director general (legal) who is the delimitation officer for Rawalpindi and the adjoining districts of Attock, Chakwal and Jhelum.
In Lahore, 280 objections have been filed against primary delimitations.
Delimitations or marking of boundaries for the constituencies is a tricky exercise. Small changes in boundaries can favour or dent a contestant’s winning chances. In 2013, high courts had scrapped the delimitations carried out by Punjab and Sindh governments when opposition parties in the two provinces accused the ruling parties of gerrymandering. The high courts and later the Supreme Court ordered both the provinces to change the legislation and empowered the ECP to conduct impartial delimitations.
And as the polling date approaches, political parties are becoming touchy about pre-poll, polling day and post-poll rigging techniques. A total of 310 petitions have been filed against delimitations in Rahimyar Khan, 253 in Dera Ghazi Khan, 233 in Gujranwala, 218 in Gujrat, 209 in Sheikhupura, 199 in Sialkot, 160 in Bahawalpur, 144 in Jhang, 138 in Muzaffargarh while 150 petitions have been filed in Okara to the adjudicating officer. The least number of petitions (16) have been filed in Pakpattan.
Most of these objections have been raised by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Pakistan Peoples Party.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2015.